Thursday night, rain poured down on the town of Eugene, Ore., all night. It was no different inside Matthew Knight Arena.
The Cal women’s basketball team was unorthodox in its ways of scoring against Oregon. Instead of their usual method of manufacturing baskets in the post, the Bears relied on their perimeter shooting.
Both squads had the magic touch from behind the arc, hitting 22 3-pointers in the game. After nailing 6-of-8 threes in the first half, Cal’s perimeter poduction in the second half decreased due to a tighter Ducks defense.
Consequently, heavier surveillance on the shooters opened up the post for the Bears. Cal reverted back to grinding out points in the paint to close out the game, 83-71.
It is no coincidence that the last time the Bears (19-7, 10-4 in the Pac-12) scored more than 80 points was against Oregon (14-12, 6-8) last month at Haas Pavilion. Ducks coach Paul Westhead’s offense-oriented philosophy generates high-scoring contests for both teams. Second in scoring offense and dead last in defense, Oregon is a fascinating anomaly in Pac-12 basketball.
Oregon wasn’t the only anomaly on the court last night; Cal’s offense was an outlier relative to its past performances.
Aside from their 3-point bonanza, the Bears improved at the free throw line, going 15-for-24. Despite its inexplicable reasons of having the worst free throw percentage in the conference, Cal stepped up late in the game to knock down free throws.
The biggest benefactor of this bizarre night was guard Layshia Clarendon, who scored a season-high 27 points and hit five 3-pointers. Clarendon was so hot that coach Lindsay Gottlieb did not dare substitute her out.
“Once you make one, the shots after go in,” Clarendon said. “They were sitting low in the zone, and they gave us those sniper shots.”
Clarendon set the tone early, scoring 15 of their first 23 points. With the Ducks keeping an eye on Clarendon’s shooting, the junior dished out five assists.
Despite Clarendon’s heroics, Cal trailed for most of the first half. But after a rare 3-pointer by forward Gennifer Brandon and Clarendon’s last-minute jumper, the Bears headed into the locker room with a 37-35 lead.
“Gen’s been really feeling that high post jumper,” Gottlieb said. “It was a little further than usual.”
The two-point lead was useless when both teams started the second half. Backed by guards Lexi Petersen and Jordan Loera, Oregon took a 50-44 lead with 14 minutes remaining.
The Bears’ post players dug the team out of their widest deficit. Center Talia Caldwell took center stage soon after, scoring eight points in three minutes as Cal took back the lead.
Caldwell’s layups sparked a 10-0 run to give the Bears 62-53 score with nine minutes left. Despite the late three-pointers by Oregon, Clarendon matched the points, playing closer to shut down the Ducks’ hopes of a comeback.